Shimon Peres was remembered in South Florida on Wednesday for his lifelong service to Israel and devotion to people across the world.
Peres, who died early Wednesday in Israel at age 93, was a major architect of the 1993 Oslo Accords, which set a framework for Palestinian self-government and earned him a Nobel Peace Prize in 1994, along with Yitzhak Rabin, then the Israeli prime minister, and Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
He visited Miami several times over the years and also met with local leaders on missions to Israel.
Jacob Solomon, president and CEO of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, called Peres the “standard-bearer for the Zionist dream.”
“He both represented the serious importance of military strength and the relentless pursuit of peace,” Solomon said.
Solomon said Peres, who was the keynote speaker at the 2015 federation fundraiser dinner, “was absolutely mesmerizing.”
Before a standing-room-only crowd, Solomon presented Peres with an award for his service. A cherished photo of that moment hangs on Solomon’s office wall.
“As he aged, he took on the appearance of not only a president for the state of Israel, but a president for the Jewish people,” Solomon said.
The Federation will hold a memorial at 7 p.m. Oct. 6 at the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center.
Peres was known as a powerful speaker. As a teenager, Lior Haiat, the Israeli consul general to Florida and Puerto Rico, remembered admiring Peres’ diplomatic abilities. Haiat said he was even more impressed when he worked with him.
“He understood peace is not just an objective; it’s a way to secure the state of Israel,” Haiat said. “His vision was way farther than all of us.”
A decade ago, Peres addressed a crowd at the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center during Shabbat services. To cheers and a standing ovation, he assured worshipers that Israel was strong enough to handle anything, but his nation sought peace.
Rabbi Frederick Klein, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Association of Greater Miami, said Peres’ greatest strength was his optimism for the future. There’s a lot to be pessimistic about in the Middle East, Klein said, but Peres never succumbed to it.
“For Jews, he was the link to that founding idealism that created the state,” he said.
During his visit to the Aventura Jewish center in 1996, Peres talked about the peace process.
“It was the most difficult year of my life,” Peres said. “People talk of a peace ceremony as if it was poetry, a headline or a CNN story. I saw the sad part of it.”
After 9/11, Peres wrote an opinion piece for the Miami Herald on the globalization of terror. He called it a global danger with no borders.
“Unfettered by human values, the atrocities it perpetrates are indiscriminate and limitless, slaughtering civilians and innocent people. It disseminates horror; it is the personification of Satan,” he wrote. “The new danger is great and terrible. It cannot be overcome with empty words or the threat of a single sword. Yet it must be defeated. And we shall prevail.”
In 1995 in Jerusalem, Peres answered questions from a nearly 300-person delegation from the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. His calls for a united Jerusalem were met with loud cheers. Miami lawyer Aaron Podhurst, who was there, praised Peres as “the father and architect of peace.”
U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, a Florida Democrat, expressed his condolences over Peres’ death.
“I feel privileged to have met him, and the world was privileged to be blessed by his presence and his powerful voice for 93 years,” he said in a statement. “My heart goes out to his family and to all the people of Israel for their loss. We feel this loss profoundly in the United States, as well.”
After 9/11: Peres on the globalization of terror
Published special to the Miami Herald on Oct. 12, 2001.
The attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon uncovered another side of globalization — terror. Until now, we were aware of economic globalization. As the economy ceased to depend on land; its role as a national economy stopped. When the economy moved from land to science, technology and telecommunications, territories, borders, sea and land lost their importance and the economy became global.
Globalization of the economy is not merely a concept, but the result of fundamental changes in the world economy. Even as countries continued to be national in character, they transferred portions of their economy to private hands, for privatization, too, isn’t simply a concept, but the outcome of globalization.
The change in the nature of world economy detracted from the importance of armies, created primarily to protect land. No army is able to conquer science or cyberspace.
The task of traditional wars as a form of defense is gradually fading, despite the fact that conflicts have not ceased. Above all, the conflict is one between the connected world (that is thriving on hi-tech) and the disconnected world, entrenched in agriculture, poverty and nationalism.
Terror appeared to be, until now, the weapon of the poor, the bitter, the fanatics, those living in yesterday’s world. It has become a dangerous instrument, because modern arms, as well as civil planes, have fallen into the hands of anarchists. In the name of a god who in their view condones killings, these anarchists turn into mass murderers and exploit global means of communication to cross borders.
Therefore, the world is moving from a position of national strategy to a position of global strategy. From battles between armies to a fight against dangers. From a world of enemies (nationalistic) to a world of dangers (global).
Global danger has no borders. It can strike anywhere and at any time. Unfettered by human values, the atrocities it perpetrates are indiscriminate and limitless, slaughtering civilians and innocent people. It disseminates horror; it is the personification of Satan.
There is no room for compromise between evil actions and human behavior. Should Satan-inspired terrorism be allowed to prevail, every water-well could be poisoned and every infant killed. It could jeopardize the freedom and security of the whole world, every country or individual. It has the potential of creating pandemonium in domestic and international flights, dealing a fatal blow to tourism and ruining global trade - wreaking fear and undermining security.
How should it be confronted?
* Recognize the magnitude of the danger and identify its true nature.
* Understand that terrorism will not cease until the hand of the last terrorist in the world has been severed.
* Perceive clearly the current situation: We have armies lacking enemies; and we have dangers lacking armies.
There is no other option but to adjust the whole of the global defense system to address the new world danger. Take NATO as an example. This organization was founded to contain the threat posed by the Soviet Union. But since the Soviet Union’s collapse, NATO faces no real enemy.
On the other hand, NATO has at its disposal extensive forces, large budgets and skilled experts who could be used to fight today’s dangers. Naturally, NATO’s present coalition needs to be changed to include Russia, India, China and Japan, which have positioned themselves together with the United States and Europe in the alliance against terrorism.
As opposed to conventional wars between armies in uniform and countries fighting at the front, the campaign against terror will be directed against enemies without identity cards and in locations that do not constitute a "front."
This is a battle that will have to be fought more in dim corners than in front lines. It will have to deal with lies, distortions and the hypocrisy of murderers who promote terror even under the guise of clerics. It will punish countries that sponsor terrorism and support nations that oppose it.
This battle needs to be planned. It must use every tool that can thwart terrorist threats: precise and updated information, full cooperation, curbing of overt and covert incitement, scrutiny of sources of funds and control over media exploitation. This will have to be effected under difficult conditions, for democracy cannot, and must not, divest itself of its moral values.
Democracies were forced to devise anti-democratic mechanisms (for instance, armies, intelligence agencies and police forces) to defend life. Armies do not enjoy freedom of speech or regular workers’ rights; orders cannot be disobeyed. They are disciplined. Yet clearly, democracies cannot survive without military defense, which appears to contradict its very ideology. Naturally, an army in democratic countries has to be subject to the authority of elected institutions.
The same steps that apply to a disciplined army now must be applied to the fight against terrorism, using the same formula and within the boundaries of the same restrictions. This battle against terror must be effective to protect life and safeguard freedom.
None of us seeks to turn terrorism into a war, or as an excuse for a war, against religions, peoples or specific groups.
The war on terrorism must focus only on terrorism. Because of this, clerics and other spiritual leaders should openly call on the devout to join the war against terror. They must prohibit acts of suicide for the purpose of killing many. The Almighty has enjoined us to uphold the sanctity of life.
The new danger is great and terrible. It cannot be overcome with empty words or the threat of a single sword. Yet it must be defeated. And we shall prevail.
Shimon Peres is deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs of Israel.